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Coronavirus: Eviction notices will still ‘drop on renters doorsteps’ during pandemic, warn campaigners

Anger and disbelief as promised ‘ban’ fails to protect tenants – with 20,000 still set to be kicked out of their homes

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 24 March 2020 11:41 GMT
Boris Johnson: 'I can confirm we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction'

Renters will still see eviction notices “drop on the doorsteps” during the coronavirus epidemic after Boris Johnson’s pledge of a ban was botched, campaigners say.

Housing groups and Labour have reacted with anger and disbelief after the promised legislation, released last night, fell way short of expectations.

Landlords will only be barred from beginning court proceedings for at least three months – but can still inform their tenants of an intention to kick them out, from late June.

And the restriction will only kick in on Friday, offering no help to an estimated 20,000 renters who are currently in the process of being evicted.

Yet, last week, the prime minister appeared to give an outright promise when he told MPs: “We will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction.”

Greg Beales, the director of the housing charity Shelter, told The Independent: “The way they have drafted the legislation is a really bad mistake.

“The vast majority of people don’t wait to go to court to be evicted – they look for somewhere else to live and leave their house when they receive a notice.

“And why has the order not been backdated, so that 20,000 people out there do not face the prospect of being evicted over the next three months?”

Caitlin Wilkinson, policy manager at Generation Rent, said: “This legislation will provide little comfort to those faced with losing their homes in the midst of a pandemic.”

And John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “It does not stop people losing their homes as a result of coronavirus, it just gives them some extra time to pack their bags.”

The Independent has asked the ministry of housing, communities and local government to explain why eviction notices have not been banned, or the legislation backdated.

However, a spokesperson described suggestions that it had backtracked on the promises made as “absolute nonsense”.

And Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, insisted: “We are bringing forward emergency legislation to ensure that no renter will be forced out of their home through this national emergency, and that landlords will be protected too.

“There can be no evictions as a result of coronavirus for 3 months – as promised – and we’ve taken the power to extend if necessary.”

But Mr Beales said eviction notices for June “will continue to drop on doorsteps” – after the legislation merely extended the notice period required to three months.

“Some will be going to people who are being told to shield themselves from coronavirus for the next 12 weeks,” he added.

Mr Healey described the weakness of the legislation as “inexcusable”, given ministers had been provided with a draft to properly ban evictions.

The draft would also have suspended rental payments until the epidemic was over, to allow for a more “manageable repayment period”.

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